Social and Health Services

Three older people balancing on exercise balls

All of us living in Europe use social and health services at some point in our lives (childcare, hospitals, care homes etc.). Social and health services are provided directly to persons who need support, care, medical prevention or treatment. They can be delivered by public authorities, non-profit providers or commercial companies.

When public authorities decide to contract out their provision to a third party, they have to comply with EU rules on competition and the internal market which have an impact on how these services are organised and funded.

This is why we have been working on the revision of public procurement and competition laws to ensure that these rules, which apply to all kinds of services, respect the specific characteristics of social and health services: service user choice, continuity, personalisation, integration of services, user’s involvement and empowerment, and partnership with communities and other actors. This means in practice simpler and more tailored rules for these services.

However, we also advocate for EU rules to recognise that under certain conditions public authorities can organise the choice of social providers in a way that is different from public procurement. The experience of our members testifies that often some national procedures better ensure the user’s choice and participation, as well as the continuity and personalisation of services.

Quality is essential for social and health services to fulfill their mission. Quality requires that services are properly organised and funded, that the necessary investments in terms of infrastructure are made and workers in the sector benefit from quality jobs. This implies improving the working conditions, ensuring adequate training, re-training and career progression to the workers. To this respect we have developed quality principles for social and health services, as well as recommendations to improve the working conditions in the sector (recommendations on care).

We also advocate to ensure that policy-makers do not perceive social and health services as a mere cost, but rather as an investment for the future of our societies and economies (e.g. it has been proved that 1€ spent in social services in the disability sector has a return on investment of 16€).